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From Broadway to Big Screen: The Musicals Getting the Movie Treatment

Green witches, flying carpets, and singing cats are heading from the stage to the screen, as Hollywood appears to have fallen back in love with movie adaptations of its favorite musicals.

It’s a tale as old as time: musicals gather a large following on the Great White Way, causing fans to repeatedly belt out numbers like “Defying Gravity” on the regular, and suddenly audiences wonder who would play the film version of the Wicked Witch of the West.

As there is a slew of musicals on the docket in the next few years, namely with a certain “Hamilton” creator attached, Variety has rounded up some of the current projects moving forward in development:

Aladdin (Expected Release: May 2019)

The hit Disney Renaissance film took a magic carpet ride to Broadway in 2011. And while Robin Williams made everyone want a “friend like him” in the 1992 animated version of “Aladdin,” Will Smith’s take on the Genie will be a “little bit of the Fresh Prince and a little bit of Hitch,” as was revealed in a clip at CinemaCon back in April. Rounding out the live-action film’s leading roles are Mena Massoud as the titular street rat and newly minted Charlie’s Angel Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine. Original composer Alan Menken will also score the film, which includes new recordings of the original songs written by Menken, Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice, in addition to two new songs written by Menken and “La La Land” duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Directed by Guy Ritchie from a script by John August, “Aladdin” is slated for release on May 24, 2019.

Bare: A Pop Opera (Expected Release: TBD)

The team behind “Rock of Ages” is joining forces again to develop “Bare” for a silver screen adaptation. Director of both “Bare” and “Rock of Ages,” Kristin Hanggi, will helm the feature and has written the screenplay, while “Rock of Ages” producers Hillary Butorac Weaver and Janet Billig Rich have also signed on to back the production. The coming-of-age story about a pair of homosexual students struggling at their private Catholic boarding school had its world premiere in Los Angeles in 2000 and debuted in New York City in 2004. The production was updated and revived for an Off-Broadway run in 2012.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Expected Release: TBD)

The film production of the biographical musical about the life of “Tapestry” weaver Carole King is feeling the earth move under its feet. Tom Hanks‘ Playtone production banner will produce the screen adaptation of the Broadway hit and Sony Pictures Entertainment will distribute. Important to note — Sony has also bought the life rights of King and others featured in the show as well as the rights to King’s songbook, which means the feature will include numbers like “Beautiful,” of course; “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?”; “It’s Too Late”; and more. Douglas McGrath, who wrote the book for the show, will write the screenplay. “Beautiful” kicked off its Broadway run in 2014 and Jessie Mueller garnered a best leading actress in a musical Tony win for her portrayal of King.

Cats (Expected Release: TBD)

Jennifer Hudson, Taylor Swift, James Corden, and Ian McKellen are ready to make some “memories” in the movie adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical about a gaggle of felines. While the latter three’s roles are unknown at the moment, Hudson will play former glamour cat, Grizabella, who sings the showstopper “Memory.” Hudson won the best supporting actress Oscar for her turn as Effie White in Bill Condon’s “Dreamgirls” in 2007. “Cats” is the fourth-longest-running show on Broadway and won the Tony Award for best musical in 1983. Tom Hooper will pair up with Working Title to direct the feature, as they previously collaborated on a film version of “Les Miserables” starring Hugh Jackman in 2012. Production will begin in the United Kingdom in November.

Come From Away (Expected Release: TBD)

A film adaptation of the true story of 38 planes landing in Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador the week following 9/11 is taking flight courtesy of the Mark Gordon Company. Producing and financing the project, MGC has also brought along the team who made the 2017 Tony nominee for best musical soar. Married duo Irene Sankoff and David Hein, who wrote the book, music, and lyrics to “Come From Away,” will write the film’s screenplay. Playbill also reported that Christopher Ashley, who won the Tony for best direction of a musical for his efforts, will direct the feature.

In the Heights
CREDIT: Jeff Christensen/AP/REX/Shutterstock

In the Heights (Expected Release: June 2020)

After gaining back the film rights from the Weinstein Company in May, Lin-Manuel Miranda is bringing the barrio in Washington Heights to cinemas nationwide on June 26, 2020, with the help of Warner Bros. The studio won the bidding war to produce the film adaptation of the 2008 Tony Award-winner of best musical, original score, and choreography in May. The project has “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu attached as well as the musical’s book writer Quiara Alegría Hudes to write the screenplay. Miranda wrote the music and lyrics for “In the Heights” and starred in the original production as narrator and bodega owner Usnavi de la Vega. No casting has been announced yet.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Release Date: TBD)

Elton John may already have a big screen release inspired by his life coming down the pike, but the Rocketman himself has signed onto the particular expedition of an animated film adaptation of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” for STX. The “Tiny Dancer” singer will team up with Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber for the project, the latter two having written the music and lyrics for the original stage production. The film will also feature new songs from Rice and Webber. John will produce under his Rocket Pictures label in association with Webber’s Really Useful Group banner. “Joseph” first appeared on Broadway in 1982.

The Lion King (Expected Release: Summer 2019)

It’s the “Circle of Life,” so it’s only natural that in the age of live-action reboots of beloved Disney classics, the Hamlet-esque story set at Pride Rock gets its due — particularly with an all-star cast. Beyonce, who will voice Nala, posted the extensive group of actors teaming up for Jon Favreau’s directorial return to the jungle, which includes Donald Glover as Simba, James Earl Jones reprising his role as Mufasa, and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar. “The Lion King” is slated to roar into theaters in the summer of 2019. The Broadway production, which opened in 1997, won the Tony Award for best musical and is the third-longest-running show in history.

The Little Mermaid (Expected Release: TBD)

Lin-Manuel Miranda is diving back into the waters with an oceanic-oriented princess for an upcoming live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.” Having already written the music and lyrics for “Moana,” whose song “How Far I’ll Go” was nominated for best original song at the 2017 Oscars, Miranda will lend his songwriting services to the production alongside original composer Alan Menken. The 1989 Disney-animated flick made a substantial impact on Miranda, who named his son “Sebastian” in part after the sassy red crab. He is also set to produce alongside Marc Platt. “The Little Mermaid” swam its way to the bright lights of New York City in 2008 with “Phantom of the Opera” veteran Sierra Boggess in the title role.

Little Shop of Horrors (Expected Release: TBD)

Greg Berlanti is happily feeding this plant. The mega-producer behind shows like “Riverdale” and “The Flash” and whose directorial credits for the big screen include modern-day John Hughes tale “Love, Simon” this past spring and 2010’s “Life as We Know It” is attached to breathe life into this retelling of Seymour and his carnivorous Audrey II for Warner Bros. Matthew Robinson, the screenwriter of “In Search of Humans” for Fox and Chernin, will handle the script. Marc Platt will also produce. Disney darlings Alan Menken and Howard Ashman brought “somewhere that’s green” to the stage when the horror rock comedy musical first premiered Off-Off-Broadway in 1982, eventually landing on Broadway in 2003.

Oliver! (Expected Release: TBD)

Please, Sir, may the world have some more Oliver in the coming future? Ice Cube will happily oblige such a request. Set to co-star as Fagin, the ever-sly pickpocket instructor to Oliver Twist, Cube will also produce the film alongside Cube Vision COO Jeff Kwatinetz and Marc Platt for the Walt Disney Co. Thomas Kail, the Tony Award-winning director of “Hamilton,” will direct the feature with “Empire” co-creator Danny Strong writing the screenplay. The Dickensian musical premiered on Broadway in 1962, two years after the show’s West End debut.

Spamalot
CREDIT: Markus Scholz/Epa/REX/Shutterstock

Spamalot (Expected Release: TBD)

Eric Idle’s spoof of a spoof musical comedy based on “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” is heading to theaters with “Mean Girls” director Casey Nicholaw, the original show’s choreographer, at the helm. So fetch. Idle, who scribed the book, music — with John Du Prez — and lyrics for the stage production, will also write the screenplay and produce the project with Jeremy Kramer for Fox. Mike Nichols directed the runaway Broadway triumph back in 2005, winning the Tony Award for best direction of a musical. “Spamalot” also won best musical and best performance by a featured actress in a musical for Sara Ramirez, causing no one to wonder what ever happened to her fabulous part.

Tick, Tick…Boom! (Expected Release: TBD)

Lin-Manuel Miranda is no novice to the worlds of stage and screen, but he will be making his directorial debut with the film adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s “Tick, Tick…Boom!” The autobiographical musical by the “Rent” mastermind follows a composer who moves to the Big Apple and fears he made the wrong career choice. Larson performed the show as a solo act in 1990, and after his death, playwright David Auburn revised the musical and premiered it Off-Broadway in 2001. Miranda performed in a 2014 production of “Tick, Tick” and will also be producing the feature alongside Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, and Julie Oh at Imagine Entertainment. No release date has been announced.

West Side Story (Expected Release: TBD)

Steven Spielberg is trying his hand at bringing the star-crossed love story of Tony and Maria to the screen. When that will be is the question. The legendary director is in pre-production for the remake of Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise’s hit 1961 film starring Natalie Wood and Rita Moreno, but his slate of films, which includes “Indiana Jones 5” and a possible biopic about “West Side Story” composer Leonard Bernstein, is still being shuffled around in terms of scheduling. Spielberg, who put out a casting call of actors for the roles of Tony, Maria, Bernardo, and Anita back in January, is adapting the project with “Angels in America” playwright Tony Kushner penning the script. They previously worked together on 2012’s “Lincoln.” The Jets first “rumbled” with the Sharks on Broadway in 1957, and since then, the Tony winner for best scenic design and choreography has had two revivals, in 1980 and 2009.

Wicked (Expected Release: December 2019)

“Thank Goodness” the film adaptation of the smash 2003 musical is making headway at Universal. Stephen Schwartz, the genius behind the music and lyrics that are still relaying the untold story of the witches of Oz on Broadway at-present, teased last year that he and librettist Winnie Holzman were at work on the screenplay for director Stephen Daldry. Schwartz plans on adding two new songs to the movie version of “Wicked,” which is gearing up for a Christmastime release on December 20, 2019. Marc Platt, along with Daldry, is producing the feature. Cast members have not been disclosed yet, although “Mean Girls” star Barrett Wilbert Weed has thrown her hat in the ring for the part of the witch with a peculiar verdigris.

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